San Francisco Chronicle restaurant critic Michael Bauer struck a nerve this week when he described the food at a new restaurant as “bland enough to appeal to the Midwestern tourist.” An angry letter writer took him to task as “arrogant,” and plenty of other aggrieved readers jumped into the ensuing discussion on his blog and another on Chow’s media blog, the Grinder, to haggle over the question of whether flyover country is a stark wasteland of meatloaf and green Jell-o. And, well, that’s a pretty stupid question, frankly, but among the many good points made before the inevitable name-calling kicked in was this: it’s not a question of coasts vs. plains, or red states vs. blue; it is, as our friends at the Stranger pointed out three years ago, one of urban vs. rural habitats and their relative levels of diversity and affluence. Even more interesting was one commenter’s observation that in the last decade or so the south and midwest have become the new Ellis Islands for more and more immigrants and refugees.
This may bode well for the future: even now, eating in Chicago is as much about tamales and barbacoa (and borscht and bi bim bop and pad thai) as it is about 12-course tasting menus. Maybe soon the same will be said for DeKalb.